Sunday, 4 November 2012


We've been away. A long way away...but before we went away, we were in Brighton for a couple of days and got to see Bond on the opening night.  It's a long time since I've seen such long queues for an film, and I know that around the country it was brilliant to see so many people dress up for it.  We loved the film, and I should get to see it again next week as The Boy was yomping around Snowdonia for his Gold DofE and I am looking forward to taking him on a boys night out.

So against the dire warnings of Grandma in Cyprus, we had headed for the middle east for a week of Indiana Jones style-adventure in Jordan.  Although the political situation across the middle east is poor, Jordan has by and large remained quite peaceful...a few protests, but who knows whether they will grow into any thing else, and we thought that if we didn't go now, things may just get less stable in the future.  At all times we felt perfectly safe, and the people very friendly.  Unlike other countries in the region, hawkers knew when to stop, and were always perfectly polite.  It was with sadness that as I gazed out of the window of our flight I spied Cyprus, and felt a tinge of regret that we weren't dropping in to say hello to Grandma in Cyprus.

For me, the interesting thing about the region is that you can see examples of almost age of human development and civilisation.  The capital of Jordan is Amman and it's a little tricky to say what time we arrived there.  The day before, the Prime Minister decided that Summer Time wouldn't end, so our watches said one time, our mobile phones said another and the guides a different time again.  We suspect we got to bed at 2.00 a.m. which was harsh as we needed to be up early for our first trip.

We noticed that Amman doesn't have the wealth or hustle bustle of Beirut as we travelled north to Jerash, a city that has seen human occupation for 8000 years.  Like many things in Jordan, what we saw was a startling surprise....the Roman ruins go on for miles and miles, and some parts are in incredibly good condition.  It is not hard at all to imagine the splendour of the place at its height...even now everyone is pretty awe-struck.  we then travelled back to Amman to visit the Citadel and our fourth amphitheatre of the day.  There is so much to take in....perhaps we should have had a ride on  the (pretty naff) chariot and pretended to be Ben Hur.

We travelled to Madaba to see the world's oldest map - a mosaic on the church floor, which must have been quite inconvenient to fold up and put in your pocket as a traveller...the creators also had no concept of scale, so it was quite useless...except that at some recent stage it was used to prove that some areas belonged to Egypt rather than Israel.  Mosaics were the theme  of the second day, including a secret one not generally visited by tourists. but shown to us by a Bedouin with whom we shared a drink of tea, as we were told this was the most likely burial site of Moses, rather than the one most widely venerated as such.

We saw Jordan's equivalent of the Grand Canyon...a 'mere' thousand metres deep, but remarkable in its beauty before moving on to Kerak of those crusader castles which fell to Saladin.  If you've seen Kingdom of Heaven, you'll know that most crusaders were bigots, and the Muslims they fought a much more balanced lot.

Everyone knows of the Treasury at Petra, but what few realise (us included) is that there was a city of 50,000 and the ruins are extensive.  It is impossible to explain the scale of the better condition than the Treasury in the Monastery - a further 40 minute climb for The Boy and I whilst the girls rode a donkey home.  We were there for a full day visit...we could easily have spent another three or four and still not seen everything.  No wonder it is counted as a wonder of the world.

We ventured out into the Jordanian desert...and were fortunate to see an eagle, as well as some 4000 year old drawings of camels on the rocks.  Our last couple of days were spent at the Dead Sea.  One shocking thing we learned was that the Israelis have diverted the River Jordan, so the Sea is indeed dying...its' level is dropping by a meter a year, and it will disappear completely within fifty years.  A remarkable fact I learnt was that my Grandmother, who was scared of lifting her feet up in British waters, actually learnt to swim in the Dead Sea!

Apart from the lovely people we met, I can't help but mention the litter.  There was rubbish everywhere...fields and fields of it across the countryside...plastic bags, paper, crushed cans everywhere.  There's a fortune to be made by someone.